In an effort to prevent neighborhood pets from being exposed to deadly fumes, Los Angeles may require pest control companies to notify neighbors 48 hours in advance of a fumigation.

L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks proposed the ordinance last month after receiving complaints from constituents that had lost pets during fumigations of neighbors' homes.

"Citizens have argued that had they been notified prior to the fumigation, they would have made plans to keep their pets indoors and out of harm's way," Parks said his in motion proposing the ordinance.

The motion also notes the potential harm that pest control gases can pose to children. But it makes no mention of an event that happened in the Toluca Lake area 12 years ago in which a resident died after methyl bromide fumes migrated into her home through connecting pipes from an adjacent building.

The City Attorney's Office has until the end of March to report back to the council on how the ordinance should be implemented.

Under current industry practice, pest control companies typically send out notices to their customers suggesting that they tell their neighbors that pets should be kept indoors.

This proposed ordinance would shift the notification burden onto pest control companies themselves. And that has generated opposition from the pest control companies, which argue the requirement would be costly and at times unworkable.

"In practical terms, besides costing hundreds of dollars per customer, this could turn into a nightmare," said Lee Whitmore, vice president of Beneficial Exterminating Co. in Hawthorne and president-elect of the Pest Control Operators of California association. "The first key is figuring out how far down the block you must go to notify neighbors. And then there's the problem of making sure that the neighbors receive the notices."

Brock Dewey, vice president of Pasadena-based Dewey Pest Control pointed out that if there's no proof the residents received the notices, that leaves pest control companies vulnerable in the event a pet dies and a neighbor chooses to sue.

He also questioned whether the city had the authority to impose such an ordinance given that primary responsibility for regulating pest control operators lies with the state.

AQMD Rules

The South Coast Air Quality Management District board will be considering measures Friday targeting two industries very much in the news these days.

One would require builders installing fireplaces in new homes to seal them and use only gas logs; the other requires gas station owners to file notices with the district that they intend to install vapor recovery systems in advance of a state deadline next year.

The fireplace regulation is essentially a ban on the construction of new wood-burning fireplaces in an attempt to reduce wood smoke emissions. Agency spokesman Sam Atwood noted that already about 75 percent of newly-constructed fireplaces use these gas logs.

But Atwood said the board is expecting to hear from the Building Industry Association of Southern California and other builder representatives who argue that the choice of whether to build wood-burning fireplaces or gas-burning fireplaces should be left up to the marketplace.

With homebuilding rare these days, this regulation would have limited initial impact.

Not so with the regulation regarding gas station applications. Assuming the board approves the regulation, the owners of all 2,500-plus gas stations in L.A. County and at least 1,000 others in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties must file an application with the AQMD by Sept. 1 for installation of vapor recovery systems. As part of the effort to control hydrocarbon emissions, state law requires these systems to be in place by April 1, 2009. The systems largely target underground storage tanks, since gas stations already have installed rubber vapor recovery systems at the pumps.

If a service station owner failed to file an application by Sept. 1, that owner would have to submit a compliance plan (with a $500 check) to the agency.

News & Notes

The state Air Resources Board will hold a March 18 hearing in El Monte to discuss updates to its regulations for spark-ignition marine engines, including personal watercraft and boats with outboard motors. The agency is trying to bring its regulations into compliance with new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations. For more information, log on to the ARB's website at arb.ca.gov, then click on "events" and then click on "workshops" and scroll down to the March 18 workshop

On Feb. 22, the Air Resources Board announced it had reached a settlement with Calabasas-based landscaping firm ValleyCrest Cos. for nearly $65,000 for failure to comply with state clean truck laws. The agency alleged that ValleyCrest neglected to properly inspect their diesel truck fleet for excess smoke emissions in 2006 and 2007. In reaching the settlement, ValleyCrest did not admit wrongdoing.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227 or at hfine@labusinessjournal.com

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